Laos currently has no railway services, apart from one station near the border that is served by Thai State Railways. This is set to change once the Boten – Vientiane line opens in 2021. There are also some other lines that have been proposed, which would connect Laos to ports in Vietnam, and maybe even Cambodia if the most ambitious proposals are realised. The plan is to turn landlocked Laos into a rail hub of Southeast Asia.
[China-Laos railway under construction.]
This page covers every current and proposed railway in Laos, and updated news articles are listed here as well.
Laos Railway Map
A working map of proposed routes and stations.
Map of future Laos Railways.
Boten – Vientiane
The Boten – Vientiane railway (the China-Laos railway) is currently under construction and already it ranks as one of the great infrastructure projects of Southeast Asia. The line is 414.332 kilometres, of which there is 258.5 kilometres of bridges and tunnels.
The railway is standard gauge (same as China and Europe) and will be electric trains. The old railways of Southeast Asia still use metre-gauge, so Thailand is building a new railway to be able to connect with this line.
The line is on a single track with passing loops. A double track would have been preferable, but given how many bridges and tunnels are being built this is an economic choice.
Trains will have a maximum speed of 160 kph between Boten and Vang Vieng, and 200 kph between Vang Vieng and Vientiane. Cargo trains will be able to travel at 120 kph.
There are 21 stations planned, with another 12 built in the future:
3. Na Mor
4. Muong Xai
5. Ban NakhokTay
6. Huoi Phoulai
7. Luang Prabang
9. Ban Sen
11. Ban BuaPheouk
12. Pha Tang
13. Vang Vieng
14. Ban VangMon
15. Vang Khi
16. Hin Hoeup
18. Ban Sakha
19. Ban Phonh Sung
20. Vientiane Neua – (Vientiane North)
21. Vientiane Tay – (Vientiane Main Station)
I assume the future stations will be where passing loops are.
The train from China would be express, stopping at:
Muong Xai (provincial capital of Oudomxay province)
It’s not known yet what the local train route would look like yet. The logical option would be like in Europe where local trains run between the main stops. Would it be then that Chinese trains are running from China to Vientiane, while a new “Laos Railways” company is operating the local services?
Thanaleng to Vientiane Extension
The smallest proposed railway is the most logical one at this point. The current railway extension from Thailand only goes to Thanaleng on the other side of the river.
The railway will be extended 7.5km from Thanalaeng Station to Vientiane Station in Khamsavath Village. This is a meter-gauge railway from Thailand, so eventually another railway will be built to connect the Boten – Vientiane to a future standard-gauge line from Thailand.
Vientiane – Thakhek – Mu Gia – Vung Ang
The Vientiane – Vung Ang railway (A3 rail project) would provide the capital of Laos with access to a sea port, in Vung Ang Vietnam. This 550 km railway would go via Thakhek and Mu Gia (Muya).
Vientiane and Laos agreed to the construction of the railway in May 2017, and in December 2017 a feasibility study concluded that the railway is doable. The project is estimated to cost 5 billion USD.
In October 2019 it was announced that work would begin on the Thakhek to Vung Ang Port section in 2021.
Savannakhet – Lao Bao
The Savannakhet – Lao Bao railway is a proposed double-line electrified railway on standard gauge (1.435mm). From Lao Bao the railway would then travel across Vietnam to the Dong Ha seaport. The 220 km section will eventually form part of the East West Economic Corridor (EWEC) that will link Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
This would be the second railway connecting Laos to a Vietnam port, though it would be of most use for cities on the EWEC than for Laos.
There was a ground-breaking ceremony for this project on 18 December, 2013, though work hasn’t begun. The right-of-way railway corridor has been marked out, and the project waits to start construction.
There are 11 planned stations on the line:
– Dongbang (Mai Posi)
– Vangkoung (Kammakon)
– Ban Dong (Dong)
– Densavan (Kahan)
This video shows what the line might look like.
Youtube: Laos railway Project animation
Thakhek – Savannakhet – Pakse – Vangtau/Chong Mek
With a proposed railway going east from Thakhek towards Vietnam, the next phase would be to continue a railway south to Pakse. From Pakse it would then go to Chong Mek on the Laos/Thai border. This could potentially be connected by a Thai Railway extension from Ubon Ratchathani.
Pakse – Veun Kham
Completing a north-south pan-Laotian railway would be the proposed line from Pakse to Veun Kham on the Cambodian border. This would connect to a proposed line from the border to Phnom Penh. This is not going to happen anytime soon.
Laos Railway Resources
Most of the information here has been found via the skyscrapercity.com Laos railway forum. Documents in Lao and Chinese have been translated into English.